Friday, I commented on Shane Raynor’s blog post titled My Issue with Jane Velez-Mitchell. It’s about an article on CNN’s website by Jane Velez-Mitchell, who had written about an interview she conducted with Nate Phelps, estranged son of Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church. In the article, Ms. Velez-Mitchell says “What does homophobia look like when it’s stripped bare of fancy costumes like family values and tradition? It looks like that group of strange, angry people who protest at the funerals of U.S. soldiers who’ve died fighting for our country.” Shane didn’t care for that and said: “You don’t have to connect too many dots to figure out that Velez-Mitchell is essentially equating traditional Christian views on homosexuality to the hate propagated by the Phelps clan.” I almost said “A hit dog always howls’, but I didn’t, I’m trying to stay true to my Lenten vow; no snide mean-spirited comments. Instead, I said I didn’t think that’s what she was saying and I went on to point out how traditional Christian views had not been very kind to gay people. That drew comments from several people who vehemently disagreed with me. At that point, I was drawn into a theological debate that I had to step back from because I was delving into territory that would cause me to break the vow I mentioned earlier. If I’m going to stick to it, I can’t get involved in stuff like that . There was another comment that made me think and that’s what we’re talking about today. It said “Shane is warning that the “homophobic” label is being used to shame and bully historic Christian tradition. This is undeniably true, and is gaining momentum through intellectual deceit.” To which I replied “Gary, did you ever stop and think that maybe the Christian tradition is homophobic?” And, that’s the question for today: is the Christian tradition homophobic?
To even begin to answer that, we first need a definition of homophobia. Merriam-Webster says that homophobia is ” irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals“. Wikipedia says “Homophobia is a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and in some cases transgender and intersex people and behaviour.“ The American Heritage Dictionary says it’s an “”aversion to gay or homosexual people or their lifestyle or culture” and “behavior or an act based on this aversion.” I’d it’s been established that homophobia involves discrimination, negative attitudes and aversion for a start. That said, let’s look at how Christian tradition stacks up.
For years, Christians have viewed homosexuality as a choice, something you decided to do on your own because God wouldn’t call something sinful and then make creatures with this in their very nature. This view is based on the venerable “clobber” passages; i.e., a set of Bible verses that have been used throughout history to show that homosexuality is sinful and a practice to be avoided. If you clicked the link, you saw that there isn’t one certain interpretation of these passages. The more conservative ones have held sway for as long as most of us can remember and it’s caused churches, individuals, secular groups and whole governments to prohibit gay people from marrying, holding certain jobs, serving as clergy, engaging in church membership and basically treat these people as second-class citizens. Under most of the definitions above, Christian tradition is homophobic. But, Merriam-Webster adds the qualifier “irrational fear”. Is there irrational fear of gay people in the church? I’d say yes, these people are different and that scares the shit out of us.
The thing is, they’re not that different from us. They have the same basic needs, wants and desires as anyone else. One of those needs, wants and desires is to be treated like a normal human being. To live with, and maybe even marry, the person they love. To attend a church and be a part of that community in full membership. To not be stuck out on the margin of things, but be right in the middle of it all. Right where Jesus wants them.